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Opponents of controversial Idaho wolf law say they’ll sue state over the legislation


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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Several conservation groups announced Monday that they intend to sue Idaho over the state’s controversial wolf law passed earlier this year, which the groups say could put other endangered species at risk.

A news release from the Center for Biological Diversity said it would join nine other groups in suing Idaho if it does not repeal a law passed in May that expands wolf hunting and trapping opportunities. The other organizations listed in the notice of intent are Footloose Montana, Friends of the Clearwater, International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Sierra Club, Trap Free Montana Public Lands, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch and Wolves of the Rockies.

The law was met with criticism from wolf advocates, as well as from hunting groups and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. It removed bag limits on hunting and trapping wolves and expanded seasons that already were nearly year-round. Much of the outcry has been over the removal of safeguards on wolf populations. Under the new law, Idaho’s wolf population could be whittled down to 10% of the estimated current 1,500 animals — though experts say that’s not likely to happen.

The notice of intent to sue, which was sent to Gov. Brad Little, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, and the directors of Idaho Fish and Game and the state’s wolf depredation control board, gives officials 60 days to “remedy” the law and its potential effects on endangered grizzly bears and lynx, the issue at the heart of the potential lawsuit.

The conservation groups’ focus is on the unintended consequences of expanded wolf trapping and snaring in Idaho. They allege that Canada lynx and grizzly bears, both protected by the Endangered Species Act, could inadvertently be killed or injured by traps or snares set for wolves, as the species share habitat in Idaho.

“To avoid unlawful take of these species, the state of Idaho should, at a minimum, prohibit all hunting, trapping, and snaring in lynx and grizzly bear habitat,” the notice says.

The documents also point to five unintentional lynx trapping incidents in Idaho between 2011 and 2020, as well as dozens of other species unintentionally caught in traps.

It’s a new approach to push back at the law, which already has been targeted by conservation groups in a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May. That petition, which includes the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club as plaintiffs, asked USFWS to reconsider listing wolves under Endangered Species Act protections because of the Idaho law and a similar one in Montana.